Chris Playoff Predictions: First Round

Eastern Conference:

(1) Washington Capitals vs (8) Montreal Canadiens

This series won’t be so much about what Washington has as it will be about what Montreal lacks. The Canadiens lack the support to contain snipers Aexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin and set-up man Nicklas Backstrom. Goaltending will be another big issue for Montreal. Neither Price nor Halak have really stepped up to claim the starting job, although Halak has looked better since the break and will most likely see the majority of the action. Regardless, Washington will outmatch the Canadiens and move on to the second round.

My Pick: Washington in 4

(2) New Jersey vs (7) Philadelphia

This match up potentially has upset written all over it. The Devils are a defensive-minded team and rank low in goals for despite rostering the talented Zach Parise along with Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner. Will Ilya Kovalchuk provide the offensive spark the Devils hoped for when they acquired him back in February? If one thing is certain about the Devils though, it’s that they can keep the puck out of their own net, especially with one Martin Brodeur setting up shop between the pipes. That alone might not be enough for a long playoff run if the team can’t score goals, however. On the other hand, Philadelphia boasts some great offensive talent in Carter and Richards and has good secondary scoring in Briere, Hartnell and Gagne. They are also a physical team prepared to grind out a long series. The Flyers have a lot of uncertainty in goal, though, and the team has been wildly inconsistent all season long. This series could go either way, but I expect the Devils to be able to capitalize on the Flyers’ mistakes.

My Pick: Devils in 7

(3) Buffalo vs (6) Boston

This series will be a goalie duel from start to finish. Tuuka Rask is the main reason that the Boston Bruins even made the playoffs, let alone that they nabbed the 6th seed. He ranks first overall in both save percentage and goals against average and has been a shining star for an otherwise mediocre Bruins squad. Ryan Miller has been stellar in net for the Sabres and defenseman Tyler Myers has certainly been a pleasant surprise for the team. The Sabres also boast a well-rounded offense as four different players have 20 or more goals on the season while the B’s only have one. Will their deep talent be too much for goalie Rask or can the Bruins rally and muster a first-round victory? If Miller and Rask cancel each other out, give the series to the deeper Sabres squad.

My Pick: Sabres in 5

(4) Pittsburgh vs (5) Ottawa

The Ottawa Senators are confident that they can contain Sidney Crosby and limit his offensive prowess and move on to Round 2. That might be easier said than done since Crosby tied for the most goals in the NHL this season. Still, the Sens won’t be without firepower of their own as Jason Spezza has been on almost a point-per-game pace since coming back from injury earlier this season. Goaltending will be a huge factor, and it will be interesting to see if the Penguins can withstand the Cup hangover and generate the motivation to bring their A-game every night. This match up could end up being closer than many initially believe, but I still think the Pens have the edge in offense, defense and goaltending.

My Pick: Penguins in 6

Western Conference

(1) San Jose vs (8) Colorado

This matchup may seem like a David vs Goliath, and you’d probably be right in that assessment. Colorado has had a wonderful season built around top young talent and the stellar goaltending of Craig Anderson. San Jose, meanwhile, has thrived offensively and will be tough to contain with a top line consisting of Thornton, Heatley and Marleau. But the Sharks have had trouble in the past elevating their game to the level needed to win the Stanley Cup. Thornton specifically has been called out for not raising the tempo. Heatley has been there before and knows what it takes, so he should be a valuable asset throughout the postseason. Expect Craig Anderson to steal a game from the Sharks, but otherwise the Avs will be wide-eyed and out-matched.

My Pick: Sharks in 5

(2) Chicago vs (7) Nashville

Chicago would be wrong to skate into this series thinking they have an easy pass into the second round. Nashville has played solid all year long behind good goaltending and strong, physical play. Unfortunately, Nashville doesn’t have the firepower that Chicago boasts up front and that may prove to be their downfall. If Nashville wants to win, their goaltending needs to be superb and they need to win battles in the corners and throw Chicago off their game with their physical play. Chicago will likely win the series on the power play where Kane, Toews and Hossa will prove to be too much. Chicago’s goaltending won’t need to be stellar, but it needs to be good to get to the next round.

My Pick: Chicago in 6

(3) Vancouver vs (6) Los Angeles

This may be one of the most interesting matchups of the first round. Here are two teams full of optimism, full of talent and full of holes. For Vancouver, defense is definitely a question mark. Goalie Roberto Luongo is normally there to bail out the lackluster defense, but this year he has been off his game and historically doesn’t do well in the playoffs. But the Sedin twins are able to take control of a game and never look back, that’s how good they are. Add in the offensive talent (and disruptive nature) of Ryan Kessler and you have a very good first two lines. For Los Angeles, Anze Kopitar is coming off a career season in points and he finally has some help from forward Ryan Smyth. Wayne Simmonds has come on strong as a tough first-liner as well, and Jonathan Quick has established himself as a strong NHL goaltender. The Kings also have great up-and-coming defenseman in Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty. While this series could go either way, the top two lines of the Canucks give them a strong advantage.

My Pick: Canucks in 7

(4) Phoenix vs (5) Detroit

Can Detroit be that dark horse that comes in as a low seed and dominates the playoffs? Or will Phoenix continue their impressive pace as the underdog and steamroll past Detroit? Because, let’s be honest, not many view Detroit as the underdog of this series. But those who think this will be a walk in the park for Detroit are sorely mistaken. Phoenix plays a good defensive game and are riding the coat tails of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov as long as they can. Both teams only have three players with 20 or more goals on the season, but they both boast deep lineups with players at all positions capable of scoring. Jimmy Howard may certainly be the make-or-break guy in this series. If he plays as well as he did in the regular season, watch out Coyotes. But it’s Detroit’s defense that very well might give them the edge. Not only should they be able to contain Phoenix’s top talent, they can add offense for Detroit as well and that might prove to be too much for the hungry Coyotes to handle.

My Pick: Detroit in 6

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *